Gambling addiction is a serious problem for millions of Americans, and for many, multiple addictions complicate the recovery process. For those beginning their recovery from problem gambling, knowing how to avoid starting another addiction is vital to regaining control of a happy, healthy life.
Gambling and Other Co-occurring Addictions
It is not uncommon for individuals with a gambling addiction to be addicted to other devastating activities, such as drinking or using drugs. Thousands of individuals face having to recover from multiple addictions at the same time.
According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC):
- 73.2 percent of people with a gambling disorder had an alcohol use disorder.
- 38.1 percent had a drug use disorder.
- 60.4 percent had a dependency on nicotine.
- 15-20 percent attempt suicide.
Why is this?
Lesa Densmore’s story reminded us that the chance to win money is often not the reason many people become addicted to gambling. There are emotional and mental causes that make individuals addicted to the feeling that occurs when they are gambling – a disconnection from the rest of the world, distracted from problems and causes of stress.
In the Faces of Problem Gambling, Lesa mentions that the residential treatment center she ultimately began her recovery process at never once mentioned gambling – the professionals there knew that underlying issues must be treated. You cannot just take someone away from casinos or their preferred method of gambling to make their recover a long-term success.
Having two addictions at the same time or switching from one to another is commonly referred to as “cross-addiction.” Someone who cannot find the opportunity to gamble may choose to drink frequently instead. Nicotine dependencies and alcohol consumption can increase tremendously at casinos and while being alone at homes participating in online gambling. The ultimate goal is not to drink, smoke or to gamble – it’s to achieve the feeling those activities lead you to.
Avoiding New Addictions After Gambling
When people choose to seek treatment, it’s a major step on the road to permanently quitting their gambling.
But will you replace one addiction with another?
You can prevent that from happening.
Preparation and counseling can help you ensure that, as gambling is stopped, another addiction is not started in its place. Both private counseling and group therapy will teach you to redirect your energy toward healthy activities and interests.
Do you use gambling to deal with stress?
Are you beginning to use alcohol or drugs instead? What healthy things could you do to relieve stress, instead? What necessary lifestyle changes should you make to avoid gambling and all other addictions? Support is available to help you answer these questions.
Do you use gambling to block out thoughts of painful memories or current situations?
Gambling may have taken up a significant amount of your time, and you may now be having a hard time filling it. While this time could lead you to experiment with other unhealthy decisions, proactively seeking out new activities can provide the adequate distraction you need to avoid actions detrimental to your health and personal relationships.
Find someone you’re comfortable speaking with – whether it’s a counselor or an entire support group – about the memories or ongoing problems causing you distress. You will find the advice and motivation needed to move forward without relying on addictive substances and actions.
If you’re concerned about the existence of one addiction or the potential for another, help is always available. Contact the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY for counsel, support and direction to treatment providers near you.